How to join in the middle of a school year ⦁ 英國點做插班生

Girl attending school raising her hand

Theo Lam is a single parent with an 11-year-old daughter living in Carshalton in Surrey. They relocated to the UK in late January this year. Theo has family members across the UK which has proven to be important – she has been getting support from them while her family settles in. She now works on business development for an architecture firm in the UK, while studying for her second master’s degree in real estate. 

What are schools like in the UK? ⦁ 英國學校係點㗎

To be honest I have found that there is always a good school in every area. Many of these schools are hot on students’ academic results and conduct. It is very easy to find online information on the schools that you are interested in yet I strongly advise parents to visit these schools with their children before making their minds up – children’s input is important. During my research I also noticed that the closer you are to central London, the fewer school places there are because of high demand and low supply. 

How is your daughter fitting in?  ⦁ 你個女習唔習慣

She fits in fine. She was in a normal school back in Hong Kong, not an international school. Since we have family members in the UK, we were visiting twice a year – during summer and Christmas. She studied in summer schools here so she’s not unfamiliar with English schools. In Hong Kong, I always encouraged her to read Chinese and English books. Before our move I found sample exam papers for her so she knew what they looked like. I also hired a private English tutor for her to train her on verbal reasoning, writing and comprehension before the big move.

Tell us how your daughter managed to join in the middle of the school year? ⦁ 分享點樣插班

I came with my daughter in end January hoping only to pick up our biometric residence permits (BRPs). But since schools back in Hong Kong were closed due to Covid-19 while schools were open in the UK, we decided to stay and find her a school straight away. This means she had to join in the middle of the school year. I was keeping an eye on several state schools for a year before January, so I had a good idea which schools she could potentially enrol in. I took her on a bus to see 4 or 5 different schools, and I asked her which one she liked the most. This is very important because your children have to feel comfortable going to the school (since they may have to take a bus to school themselves) and happy about the school environment. Once she told me which schools she liked, I got in touch with these schools straight away and asked for school tours. Out of the 2 schools we managed to visit, one of them had vacancy. I was well prepared with my daughter’s portfolio, reference letters and report cards, so she got admitted straight away. The next thing we did was filling in all the necessary forms and handed them to the local council. 

Why did you pick Carshalton? ⦁ 點解住 Carshalton

There are many good and outstanding schools in the area, which is important to us. Also, from Carshalton we can take a train and reach Clapham Junction station (one of the busiest railway stations in the UK) in 17 minutes. 

What is your advice on how to pick a place to live in the UK? ⦁ 點揀去邊度住

To me, the first consideration is the job of the breadwinner. Once you know where you are working, you can start surveying the nearby area. Whether you have friends and relatives in the UK is also important, because having someone you know close by is always nice, while they can also give you good and objective feedback on the area they live in. Do not move to a town because everyone else said it’s nice. An example is, durian is nice but not everyone likes the taste – you may not like the most popular town because it simply does not offer you the lifestyle you want. Do your research, especially now that information is available all over the Internet. Make sure you visit an area before moving. And if you have never been to the UK before, try and come for a visit before the big move. Emigration is not just about yourself, but the whole family. So make sure they contribute to the decision. 

Image: Vasovsky on Unsplash

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